Bashar al-Assad expects to rule Syria until 2021 despite the ongoing civil war raging in the country, the Syrian President told a gathering of Western journalists in Damascus.
In an interview published by the New York Times on Tuesday, Assad ruled out any political changes prior to a military conclusion to the conflict and said he would stay in office at least until the end of his third seven-year term in 2021.
Assad "radiated confidence and friendliness" during the interview in which he accused the US of being a driving force behind the conflict and of actively backing the Daesh militant organization and other extremist groups.
"I'm just a headline — the bad president, the bad guy, who is killing the good guys," Assad said. "You know this narrative. The real reason is toppling the government. This government doesn't fit the criteria of the United States."
However, Assad said he was still willing to engage in dialogue even with the US. "But that doesn't mean to give up our sovereignty and transfer Syria into a puppet country," Assad added.
Despite enormous international pressure, Assad believes strong local support will allow him to stay in power.
He added that much of his support came from people who were against his policies and the Baath Party but who feared the alternatives of extremist rule or the collapse of the state.
"They learned the value of the state," Assad said.
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